Outside a building, just a little apart from the rest of the temple, I spied two pairs empty shoes. From within the building came the throaty singing so familiar in this place, and the harsh beat of a steel drum. My curiosity was peaked, and so, cautiously, I slipped off my own shoes and stepped inside.
It was, of course, a small sub room in the temple grounds for meditation. The man playing the drum I had seen before; he wasn’t bald and robed like so many of the singing people around here, but he clearly put stock in this faith, for he was always finding himself in places a few steps before me, deep in some cryptic ritual. The other person in the room was a woman, white skinned and blonde haired, the most striking poster for imatative gonzo tourism you could imagine. She dressed in almost-robes, just a little too fashionable to be considered authentic, and had around her neck a string of prayer beads she was neglecting to use. She had her eyes closed, her hands pressed together in prayer, and was on her knees in that most Christian of ways. Eventually her knees began to hurt and she swapped to a cross legged position, which was clearly more natural for that was where she stayed, silent and calm, breathing in and out, in and out.
I watched them, and heard the singing, and smelt the distant scent of incense that could find its way just about anywhere in these temples, and I made my decision. I could do with a little peace of mind, even if I might look like the worst kind of tourist while I’m at it. Quietly, carefully, I lowered myself down into one of the pillows resting so neatly on the floor, and with a deep, long breath, I did my absolute best to meditate.
Unfortunately meditation is hard. Especially in a different country, struggling with loneliness and quite a lot of doubt over me, myself and I. I found it difficult not to fall back into a chain reaction of bad thoughts. One would empower the next until I’d find myself holding onto that chanting old man by the collar, begging for enlightenment.
I squeezed my hands together, and listened, listened to his chanting, his drumming, the faint, everlasting muttering of the crickets outside. I opened my eyes, just for a second, acknowledging how perfectly simple this room was, with its pale colours, soft ground, thin, sliding doors. They wouldn’t keep anyone from interrupting, as I had already proven, but they inspired a trust that people would be respectful even if they did interrupt.
Slowly, ever so slowly, my mind began to focus. My body, my breathing, my presence was stronger. My thoughts, the endless wittering dialogue in my head, hushed. Every so often I would stray from the path, realising with surprise I was doing just a little too much thinking. But it was never too much effort to bring myself back to that place of calm, that room in the middle of tourist trap temple grounds, a room somehow perfect, homd to faith, and fakers, and the strange, soothing peace that we all love so very much.
I soaked up the atmosphere and I was better for it. I left the temple with a smile, and with the most untraceable feeling of all; contentment.